Government fails to take action: Human rights and environmental abuses abroad go unchecked

The government failed today to take action to end human rights and environmental abuses committed by Canadian mining companies abroad. In Mining in Developing Countries – Corporate Social Responsibility, released today, the government dismissed recommendations proposed by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) to adopt concrete regulatory measures. Instead, it continued to rely on voluntary codes of conduct.

“Voluntary codes of conduct don’t work. It’s time the government got serious and passed legislation that holds Canadian mining companies accountable for the environmental and human rights violations they commit in other countries,” says Ian Thomson of KAIROS. “Anything less is tacit support for business as usual.”

In recent years, allegations of forced re-settlement, contamination of lands and waters, support for repressive regimes, violations of workers’ and indigenous rights, assaults and even killings by security forces, have been associated with specific Canadian companies.

“The Canadian government has missed an opportunity to establish itself as a global leader. It took the easy way out, with more talk and no action” says Karyn Keenan, Mining Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Canada.

A June SCFAIT report noted concern “that Canada does not yet have laws to ensure that the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries conform to human rights standards, including the rights of workers and of indigenous peoples.”

“The Committee heard that Canadian mining companies are leaving a path of destruction in countries all over the world, and requested a government investigation of TVI Pacific in the Philippines in particular” says Catherine Coumans from MiningWatch Canada. “The government has failed both Parliament and the indigenous Subanon who travelled from the Philippines to testify before the Committee.”

Although the Government’s response acknowledges a need for action to address the often devastating impacts of the mining sector, it does not adopt the Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations, which would have held corporations to account, and conditioned government support on compliance with human rights and environmental standards. The government, however, has committed to a number of multi-stakeholder roundtables.

Issued by:

  • Canadian Council for International Co-operation
  • Friends of the Earth Canada
  • Halifax Initiative Coalition
  • KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • L'Entraide missionnaire
  • MiningWatch Canada

For more information contact:
Katia Gianneschi, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Media Relations, 613-241-7007 ext 311.

Note to editors: Melizel F. Asuncion (Philippines), César Padilla (Chile) and Abdulai Darimani (Ghana), representing communities affected by Canadian mining companies, are in Ottawa and available for interviews in the week of October 17-21. Bios are below.

Melizel F. Asuncion (Philippines)

Mel is the Regional Coordinator of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre-Kasama sa Kalikasan/ FoE-Philippines' Luzon Regional Office. LRC is a policy and legal research as well as an advocacy institution, organized as a non-stock, non-profit, non-partisan, cultural, scientific and research foundation that started its actual operations in February 1988. The goal of LRC-KsK/FoE Philippines is to empower marginalized and disenfranchised peoples directly dependent on their natural resources so as to be able to affect ecologically sustainable, culturally appropriate, economically viable, gender sensitive, equitable uses, management, conservation and development of the natural resources in the Philippines. Mel worked on many campaigns, including filing cases against Marcopper Mining Corporation/Placer Dome, International following the spill of the Maguilaguila Dam in Marinduque and against Climax-Arimco Mining Corporation, an wholly-Australian owned subsidiary, to protest against its mining activities in Didipio that was resulting in displacement of and violation of the rights of the indigenous groups in the area, among others.

Currently, Mel is part of the legal team working on the issue against Toronto Ventures, Incorporated in an advisory capacity. She is also the Luzon Regional Coordinator of the Alternative Law Groups, Incorporated. She has been a member of the Philippine Bar since 2002.

César Padilla (Chile)

Trained at the Universiteit of Amsterdam, César Padilla worked in the department of Social Anthropology and Sociology of Non-Western People with a specialization in Latin America. He is the founder and International Co-ordinator of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts in Chile (OCLA). Since its inception, César has been active in supporting research and education activities for leaders of peasants, unions and other organized groups of land workers, as well as collaborating with local groups and other NGOs to protect the environment and community rights against mining projects by contributing significant research and documenting case studies on mining pollution and other risk situations.

Abdulai Darimani (Ghana)

Abdulai Darimani is Programme Officer, Environment Unit, for Third World Network–Africa (TWN). TWN Africa is a NGO that carries out Research and Advocacy on issues of social and economic policy that advances the needs and interests of peoples of African and other third world countries (especially marginalized social groups), a fair distribution of world's resources and forms of development which are sustainable and fulfill human needs. TWN Africa works with several communities in the mining regions of Ghana in order to promote their self-organization. It also collaborates with public interest law institutions and NGOs to support litigation for compensation brought by hundreds of farmers against a number of mining companies in Ghana. At the regional/continental level, TWN-Africa collaborates with several right-based and development NGOs working and/or interested in mining and other extractive sector issues. The environment unit of TWN-Africa coordinates and hosts the secretariat of the Africa Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES), a pan-African platform for advocacy on mining. This also gives rise to active bilateral links with groups and organizations operating in mineral endowed African countries such as Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Mali, Guinea, Zimbabwe, etc. At the international level the unit has active links with advocacy groups around the world, especially in the home countries of companies engaged in mining in Africa.